Since I was a teenager, I have been in love with China. The culture, the history, the language.
Everything about China enamored me.
Even the politics intrigued me.
In college, I minored in Chinese and spent a summer abroad in Beijing.
It was more than I dreamed possible.
It became my first love. Trumping other passions. Even boyfriends.
I dreamed of working and living in mainland China. Of surpassing proficiency in Mandarin and becoming fluent.
But circumstances prevented me from getting back there. A back injury that didn’t allow for overseas travel.
A life altered by one accident.
But I remained faithful. I loved China. I promised myself one day I would go back there.
And maybe even move there.
Dreams are beautiful like that. They give you something to hope for. Something to strive for. Something better than today. Even if it always remains in tomorrow.
A few years ago, my world changed again. A brilliant doctor gave me an artificial disc in my spine. Suddenly, my spine was healthy again. I could travel abroad again.
And I planned a summer trip to China. On the horizon. A definite possibility again.
I practiced my Chinese. I read all my guidebooks and I returned to my first love, China.
There were some wonderful moments on the trip. There were some really awful ones too.
I had to face the fact that China and I had changed. We weren’t the same as when we first fell in love.
It was not the place I visited 13 years ago. I was not the girl who climbed dangerous sections of the Great Wall.
I no longer wanted to live and work there. I no longer dreamed that dream.
I’d fallen out of love with a dream that sustained me for two decades.
It left a void inside. A place that may not be filled for a long time.
Falling out of love with a dream hurts.
But I’m grateful for the dreaming. Because I got to see China. I got to speak Chinese. The dream gave me so much.
I will mourn that dream like an almost fiance.